Boom! Down goes another Nürburgring record to the might of Mercedes-AMG. And this record is particularly noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the absolute lap record for production cars. Nothing with a license plate has gone faster than this. Secondly, Mercedes-AMG did it with a front-engine car. Showing, yet again, that tons of horsepower can overcome a number of handling problems.
Front vs. Mid Engine
It’s a well-known fact of engineering and physics that mid-engine cars are faster than ones with a front or rear engine. I could go into more details about why, but to save time, let’s remember that even Chevy finally debuted its mid-engine Corvette after the rumor mills swirled for years. The point being that Mercedes-AMG went out and set the production car record at the Nürburgring with what amounts to a factory hot-rod version of their GT called, almost unimaginatively, the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series.
They had to do it with something, and since Mercedes-Benz doesn’t even make a mid-engine road car, a version of their Mercedes-AMG GT was a good place to start.
Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series Specs
Engine: 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo
Displacement: 3,982 cc
Horsepower: 720 (6,700-6,900 rpm)
Torque: 590 lb-ft. (2,000-6,000 rpm)
Drive System: RWD
Transmission: AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed
Zero to 60: 3.1 seconds
Top Speed: 202
Starting MSRP: $325,000 plus $1,050 destination and delivery charge.
Hard Pill To Swallow?
The car Mercedes-AMG knocked off the top of the heap was a factory hot-rodded Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, which is decidedly mid-engine. This must either please or annoy the guys at Sant’Agata to no end. It must be like LeBron James losing a slam dunk or three-point shooting competition to a rookie. If you’re a star like King James, you might have respect for the new kid taking your crown, but it might also be a tough pill to swallow.
What Mercedes-AMG Did
To help overcome the engineering deficit, Mercedes-AMG recruited GT3 driver, Maro Engel. He did the big loop (12.944 miles total) in 6:43.616, which is very quick for something with AC and a stereo. His Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, although stock, was chock full of F1 tech and cranked out an impressive 720 horsepower. Helping get that power to the pavement was the adjustable carbon fiber front splitter and lower and upper wing blades of the rear spoiler. The carbon fiber front splitter was extended to the “Race” position, and the lower and upper wing blades of the rear spoiler were each adjusted to the middle position.
“With speeds of up to almost 168 mph in the Kesselchen section of the track and well over 186 mph on the long Döttinger Höhe straight, the AMG GT Black Series is significantly faster than my GT3 race car,” Engel explained after his record lap. “Like my GT3 race car, the AMG GT Black Series offers a lot of adjustment possibilities, all of which enabled me to create a setup that was tailor-made for me.”
The AMG coil-over suspension with adaptive damping also helped the GT Black Series dethrone the Aventador. It was lowered by 0.2 inches at the front and 0.1 inches at the rear. Furthermore, the carbon fiber hood includes two large exhaust outlets that guide the warm air from the slanted radiator out of the engine compartment.
They maxed the camber out (a good old AutoX trick!) to a negative 3.8 degrees at the front axle, and negative 3.0 degrees at the rear. The adjustable anti-roll bars were set to their hardest of the three possible settings. I bet the tires were shot after two laps if not one and a half! Those tires were Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R MO tires with a “soft compound.” Those are the standard skins for the car and stick like glue, but they cost a small fortune. Braking is handled via the stock AMG ceramic system.
Another Similar Run
Recently, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S secured a record lap time on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Just as they were for AMG development engineer Demian Schaffert who piloted the GT 63 S, the weather conditions were not great during Engel’s run. Still, the 35-year-old driver seemed unaffected.
“My hat is off to the developers from Affalterbach for what they have put on wheels here,” Engel said. “And I’m very pleased that I was able to demonstrate these fascinating engineering skills with this great lap time.”
And I can’t argue much with that. Of course, you know who could argue with it? Porsche. Or Ferrari. Or Lamborghini. OK guys. Back to the drawing board. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover over the long winter ahead.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.